Book Review: At Home with Madame Chic

Okay, confession time: I am a total Francophile. I admit it. I am the cliche American, obsessed with French culture.

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I think my obsession first began when I visited France the summer before my senior year in college. To be honest, I knew almost nothing about French culture when I visited. (Major faux pas on my part. I didn’t even think much about it until after I came home and found myself once again frustrated with the general calamity of our materialistic, productivity-obsessed consumer culture. I remembered how simple and fresh France was and sought to bring that sophistication in to my own life.

Long story short, I read a lot of books about French culture. At Home with Madame Chic came up in my reading suggestions so I decided to check it out. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t crazy about it.

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Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s a good, general self help book. The author, Jennifer Scott, provides a lot of advice for home keeping and simplifying life at home with kids. I think, however the book is misleading. After reading the description, which cites the author’s time living in France with a French family, I purchased it in hopes of hearing about exactly that. What daily habits did the matriarch Madame Chic have in keeping her home? What kind of food did she cook? How did she approach clutter?

The book very briefly touched upon these topics. While a chapter might start off with an anecdote about Madame Chic wearing an apron while preparing dinner for that night, it would veer off and talk about what kind of music the author liked to listen to in the afternoon or how she wanted to take a nap while her kids were home sick from school. Perhaps they are relatable and delightful for some stay at home parents, but these topics are largely uninteresting to me.

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I bought the book to read about the original Madame Chic, not what kind of junk accumulates on the author’s dining room table throughout the day.Rather than  “At Home with Madame Chic” it would be more aptly titled “How I Incorporated Values I Learned In France Into My Own Home Life”.

As a single woman with no children and a full time job, there was a large portion of it that was boring/inapplicable to me. This isn’t a bad thing per se but I wouldn’t have bought the book if I knew that’s what it was about.

It also addressed the subject of family/womanhood/femininity from the author’s perspective which is  not necessarily negative, but limited if you don’t fall in to the same identity spectrum. I think a recap/interpretation of Scott’s observations in France, as implied in the title and book description,  would welcome a greater audience. If you’re interested in how to approach heteronormative motherhood with a little more grace, this is good book for you. Just don’t go in with the expectation of reading about French culture.

Pan Bagnat

Sandwiches are easily my favorite thing to eat. Mostly because they can come in endless forms and most often include some kind of carbohydrate. Mmmm carbs.

They’re easy to make. Easy to transport. Hold up well. Almost always satisfying. Unless it’s really poorly thrown together, I’m never bummed that I brought a sandwich for lunch. Sandwiches are always a good call.

The other day I was seeking inspiration for yummier week day meals and I came across this recipe for the Pan Bagnat. Essentially, it’s a Nicoise salad on a baguette.

I was immediately drawn in my the colorful photo and ingredient list, plus Nice is the most amazing place I’ve been to and I dream frequently about going back.

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However, I’m not crazy about tuna and I avoid egg when I can so I made a ~vegan~ version of the sandwich. I don’t think the bread is vegan but you can make it on whatever bread you like. I opted for the baguette.

Here’s my version of Le Pan Bagnat:

Ingredients:
1 baguette1/2 of olives – I used green and black, pitted.
3 cloves of garlic, minced – I go heavy on garlic so if you’re not crazy about it, you can halve this amount
1/2 cup artichoke hearts
1/3 red pepper
1 cup green beans
1/4 red onion
1/2 small turnip
1 handful scallions
12ish fresh basil leaves
6 tbs olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

1. Chop everything except the baguette, basil, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

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2. Cut the baguette in half and scoop the filling out of one side to create a trough for the chopped ingredients. Brush the inside of each loaf with olive oil and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Line the loaves with the basil leaves.

3. Mix chopped ingredients in a bowl and season with a pinch of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. *The original recipe calls for lemon juice here. I forgot it and my sandwich turned out fine, but I think it could be yummy, so lemon if you have lemon!

4. Empty ingredients into trough. Wrap sandwich and keep it pressed under something heavy, over night. I threw it in the fridge and place a glass baking pan over it. This is supposed to help the flavors meld together I think.

5. Eat! The outside of my sandwich stayed crusty but the inside was nice and soft so that it didn’t wreck my mouth (I’m looking at you, Captain Crunch.) I always enjoy my sandwiches with some kind of chip or pretzel but the recipe suggests a good green apple pairs well too. Hope you like it!

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